My only brush with the "paranormal" that I can recall is one night my mother asked me to get up and check to see if she remembered to lock the front door screen. When I got up and walked across the room, checked the screen to assure it being locked... I turned to return to bed only to see each of my footsteps outlined in 'light'.... Mom thought they were fireflies that I'd stepped on but when I turned on the overhead light, there was NOTHING THERE.... whew!
This happened when I was somewhere between 12 and 14. I was spending the night at my aunt and uncle’s place in anticipation of helping them put up hay the next day. They lived in an old farmhouse that had been in the family since WW2, and for most of that time, it was a dairy operation. It was also the old family place, and my grandparents also lived there.
I don’t recall how old I was when they sold the dairy business and went strictly into raising crops, but I do know it wasn’t long before the incident I’m about to relate. I also know my grandfather, who had helped milk cows morning and evening for decades – a seven-day-a-week, 365-day-a-year routine – passed away only a few short months before.
So it was summer, and an old house, and I had a cot set up in the living room, just off the dining room, which I could see a part of. The dining room had three tall, old-fashioned windows, the kind with lead weights inside the casing to help raise and lower them. They also ran from about 12 to 16 inches off the floor to about 12 inches from the ceiling, in order to allow fresh air inside during those pre-air conditioner days.
Come early morning, with a still-gray dawn but enough light inside that I can make out the features around me, I’m lying in my cot with my hands behind my head just staring at the ceiling and dreading the coming day (if you’ve put up hay by hand, you know why) when I heard the door to my grandfather’s second-story bedroom open and close. Then the sound of footsteps coming down those old wooden stairs.
This has my curiosity aroused, and I remember coming up on one elbow to see who it was. I couldn’t imagine why anyone would be in my grandfather’s bedroom at that time of day. Meanwhile, the sound of footsteps continued down to the first floor, through what they used to call the trophy room, and into the back of the dining room where my grandfather always sat in “his” chair to put on his work boots. Whoever it was, sat down in that old rocker while making enough noise that I knew what they were doing. After a couple of minutes, whoever it was stood up and walked the rest of the way through the dining room – into the kitchen and out the front door, which I couldn’t see from my angle in the living room.
Here’s the puzzling part. Whoever it was had to pass in front of those three tall dining-room windows, and there’s no way anyone was going to do that without me seeing them.
But that’s exactly what happened.
I’ve since learned that this is what’s called a “residual haunting,” where the entity in question has a routine down so pat after years of practicing it, that the spirit of the deceased continues the act even after death.
Do you believe that? Do you believe in ghosts? I’m not sure what I believe as far as the paranormal is concerned, and if someone can offer a legitimate explanation of what I experienced – without resorting to the “oh, you were still asleep and dreamed it” proposal – I’d like to hear it. Otherwise, it’ll stay filed in the “I don’t know what the hell that was” cabinet. I suspect you might have a couple of those in your cabinet as well.
By the way, the two photos to the right – the first one is of me and my grandfather standing outside the milk shed, where he spent so much of his life. The second is the two of us relaxing in the shade, the trio of windows mentioned in my story around eight to ten feet to my right.
Michelle's First Story
There is an exclusive residential area in Dallas, Texas, called Swiss Avenue. This area was one of the first residential areas developed around 1905. The focus of my story is Mary Ellen Bendtsen and her home, located on Swiss Avenue. As you see from her youthful photos below, she was quite a beauty.
Mary Ellen loved her home, and often introduced herself as “Mary Ellen Bendtsen, of 4949 Swiss Avenue.” Sadly, her fortune over the years deteriorated, and so did the house since she was unable to care for it. But she so loved the house, she wouldn’t leave it. She and the house aged and fell into disrepair together.
Unfortunately, Mary Ellen was the subject of a rather sordid situation where two antique dealers attempted to defraud her of the house. It was an ugly story and she passed away with headlines blaring.
Eventually, the home was sold to a family who committed to restoring the house and raising their family in it. Before restoration began, the house was put on the annual Swiss Avenue Tour of Homes as a sort of “before” snapshot. Yours truly had to see it. I rather had the feeling that a woman who so identified with the house wouldn’t leave it just because she died.
As you can see from the photo above, the house has a brooding presence. The rooflines with their rolling edges feel like sentinels guarding the gate to the castle. On my first personal sight of the house, I had some misgivings about walking up those steps into the maw of some unknown destination. To my surprise, the porch is beautifully tiled in the style of 1918, when the house was built. The front door panels are cut glass that radiates light like diamonds. The door opens to a grand foyer with a central grand staircase reminiscent of Carter’s Grove plantation in Williamsburg, Virginia.
From the grand entry, the living and dining rooms are on your right, with a solarium behind the dining room. The music room where Mary Ellen entertained her guests on her grand piano is on the left of the foyer.
Behind the music room is a hallway that separates the music room from the kitchen. Upstairs are 4 huge bedrooms and baths, and the top floor attic was a huge playroom for children. I toured all the rooms but the kitchen. As I descended the grand staircase to the main floor, I finally understood why Mary Ellen loved that house so much. Inside, it seemed the house wrapped its arms around you in a warm, welcoming embrace. I felt like I belonged there too.
My last stop in the house was the hallway to view the kitchen, which had been torn down to its studs. From the hallway, I had a clear view of the kitchen space. Two gentlemen were the only other people in that hallway with me, but they were at the far end near the side door and engaged in a private conversation. I stood in the hallway imagining how I would organize that kitchen if it were mine. Suddenly, I felt a hand caress my hair. That brought me out of my reverie in a heartbeat, and I was annoyed at the brazen cheekiness of one of those men who dared to touch me! I turned intending to give them a piece of my mind, only to discover that they were still in the far corner of the hallway, completely oblivious that I was there. No one else was in the passageway, but someone touched me, no doubt about it! I wondered at the time if that caress was Mary Ellen’s way of saying hello.
Later, I learned that Mary Ellen haunts that part of the house, the kitchen, hallway, and music room. I’ve heard that the current owner of the house is uneasy in the hallway. That’s a shame. I’m sure that Mary Ellen is delighted that a charming family is bringing her house alive again.
So, a happy haunting, not a creepy one! I feel rather special that Mary Ellen approved of me. Unfortunately, the home is not open for tours. I haven’t seen it on the Tour of Homes since. I hope they open the doors again next May. Mary Ellen, I’m sure, will be on hand to greet new guests.
Two more destinations, and I’ll stop rambling.
Have a great Saturday evening,
Here are some interesting numbers. According to a Harris poll in 2013, about 45 percent of people believe in ghosts. In that same poll, almost 30 percent of the respondents said they believed that they'd personally been in the presence of a ghost.
Michelle's Second Story
Here’s another ghost story for your amusement that happened at Chatham House in Fredericksburg, Va. Beautiful 18th-century mansion on a bluff overlooking the Rappahannock River in Fredericksburg, Va. The house was used as a Union hospital during the battle there in 1862. A number of soldiers died there and are still buried on the grounds. I met one of them in the ladies’ bathroom.
The facility is located in the area of the old stables, so it’s outside the house, through the back garden, down a long path past the barn and, voila . . . the ladies’ facility. Far away from the house or anyone. Quite modern and clean inside . . .
There was only one door. The knob turned easily, but the door wouldn’t budge. At first, I thought it was stuck. I pulled and jerked thinking I could jar it loose, then banged on it with my hand, then my shoulder. That puppy was solid tight, wouldn’t move as if it were cemented shut. Then I started calling for help.
Remember how isolated the building was? There was no other way out, and I wondered how long it would be before Handsome Hubby came looking for me. I tried the door again. It struck me as odd that the door wouldn’t move, not even a quarter inch, but the knob worked just fine. I had a sudden thought and asked the air, “Is someone just messing with me?” The minute the words were out, the door opened. I shot out of there like a cannon, although I had the good manners to call out, “Thank You,” over my shoulder as I scurried back to the house.
I hope that spirit didn’t take a peek while I was taking care of business.